Saturday, February 27, 2010

‘We laid the foundation for the current success of Nigerian music’ - CHRISTY ESSIEN-IGBOKWE

The lady of songs, Chief Christy Essien Igbokwe, MON, has been silent for 16 years. But we have not forgotten her because she left us enough materials to remember and rollick with. Her songs are evergreen and she laments the lack of songs like that in the contemporary music scene. Her last album, Mysteries of Life, was in 1994 and in-between that time and now, so many factors, including a four-year stint as the president of her beloved PMAN (Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria), have combined to delay the coming of her 11th album. The latest impediment is the imminent release of her son, Kaka's debut album.
We talked about so many other things, including the fact that she still has no grandchild despite 31 years of happy married life to Chief Edwin Igbokwe, who was in the adjoining living room, working on his laptop during this interview…

What has been happening to you all this while?
I am working on my 11th album. I am taking my time to do that because we want to conclude work on my son, Kaka's debut album. As soon as we are through with that, I will go back to work on my own album.

When was your last album?
My last album was in 1994.

Why did you stay away that long?
It wasn't an intentional layoff, but things like my four years at the helm of PMAN and the operation I had contributed. But I believe God's time is the best. No matter how long you are away, if God is not finished with you, He will always come back for you. He never even left me in the first place.
Then, there was the issue of piracy. I had already started work on a new album as far back as that 1994, but piracy discouraged me. When you spend so much money to produce a work, they come and pirate it for you without letting you even recoup the money you spent on producing the album.
Most of the record companies then were not being honest with the artists. They just cheat them out of their royalties. It got to a point where I told my record company, Ivory Music, to take the royalties from my record to take care of the people I was training.
But the thing is that it's your gift and you can't just abandon it. You'll know no peace. Music is a spirit and artists are possessed people. When music possesses you and you refuse to play, you'll never be at peace, no matter the type of business you put your hands on, you must go back to it.

How do you view the position and contribution of PMAN to the current developments in the Nigerian music scene?
The problem with PMAN is that we are not focused on realizing our goals. We know we want to realize, but we are not focused on realizing them. We know we want to be a strong body to be reckoned with, but for people to have faith in their union, they need them whenever the need arises.
But when you leave what you should be focusing on and only satisfying your personal needs, then you will never achieve it. God used me to form PMAN and they wanted me to be the first president but I don't believe that if you have an idea, you should be the one to control it.
Back people up. It still remains your idea, no matter what happens. But when things started going wrong, they came to me again. When I got in there, I met a lot of lies, selfishness and backbiting by people who just wanted to embezzle money. For your members to have confidence in you, you must first show confidence in them. I was paying rent for some of them. PMAN was making so much and we had to help the members. I heard that any job the president brings, he or she gets 10 percent. What I did was to make my own 10 percent official. They were surprised, but I wanted to lead by example. I never used any of PMAN's money when I was their president and when I stepped down, I gave an account of my stewardship to them.

Apart from Kaka, are there other of your children that are musically-inclined?
There are, but none like him. The family loves music so much, but one person is always outstanding. They all do their own various forms of music. We have a small studio in the house and they all make use of it. My third son writes music for people.

Who are the people you have noticed in the contemporary Nigerian music scene; people you feel are genuine musicians and are on the right path with their music?
2Face makes an impression on me. From his rhythm, you can easily tell that he is the one. A musician shouldn't be predictable. He is a hard working young man. There are other people, but it's just that their names confuse me. They will tell you 9ice, D'Banj or some other thing. The reason I noticed 2Face is his voice. I have interest in his voice and when you have interest in somebody, no matter what he or she answers, you will always know him. Then, there's the other one, Faze. I like his voice too. Then, I like Yinka Davies and Stella Damasus. I know Stella is more of an actress, but I like her voice. She can sing.

Looking at the industry, what are the things you think they are doing right and those areas you think should be improved upon?
Do I even get to see them, not to talk of knowing what they are doing right or wrong? If you take much interest in them, they will think you are looking for attention. They will read all kinds of negative meanings into it. Most of them would see you at events and not even show any sign of recognition.
Music has its own seasons and this is another season for musicians to make money. People are dancing to anything now and that's what is making them relevant. Otherwise what meaningful songs have they sang that is making them puff up? What evergreen songs have they sang? What happens is that people are dancing to noise in order to forget their sorrows and this season will also come to pass. There is so much problem in the world today and people can afford to dance to anything and very soon, they would realize themselves and leave for other sounds. We were the ones that laid the foundation for what they are enjoying today. We worked so hard because we believed in the future; we knew that people like them will come and we didn't want them to come and suffer the way we suffered. We wanted them to come and enjoy the fruits of our labour because we, the older ones, enjoyed nothing. Only few of them would come to greet you. Others would just look at you and pass. When I was growing up, I didn't do that. Whenever I heard that Okosun or Fela was in town, I will go to wherever they were playing to greet them. If you are humble, you will continue to be relevant.

How do you spot a good song?
It is not difficult. When you hear a good song, it would capture your spiritual and physical attention. You would want to hear all of it. Not all the songs that have good rhythms have good lyrics. Some good songs might not have good melody, but the lyrics would be good. But they all go together. It's either you love a song because of its lyrics or the voicing or the percussion. Something must touch you about a song and sometimes it is everything about the song.

What makes a good musician?
A good musician is someone who is disciplined, humble, hard working, positive in thinking, has endurance, composed and must be able to work with people. You must also allow the spirit of music to control you.

What do you think makes a song to sell?
Sometimes it has to do with luck, sometimes with the song and sometimes with the person. Some people are just likeable and people want to listen to them; not that their songs are fantastic. Then, some of the songs that are selling are due to constant airplay. The radios bombard you so much with the song that you cannot help but submit and like it, since you cannot avoid it.

But there are still some very bad songs. How do you feel when you hear such songs?
You can't say any music is bad. It's a wrong way of judging music. No music is bad. What happens is that you may not appreciate it. A song you don't like might be loved by another person, so how do you explain that?

Why is it that most of the older musicians didn't really make much money and some of them are still living in poverty today?
In the past, people never took music seriously. They used to see musicians as never-do-wells. They used to see them as drunkards and in all honesty, musicians used to drink a lot in those days. That made people look down on the art. Only a few people took their music seriously. The musicians are still getting drunk these days, but they take good care of themselves and most times, the public never gets to know.
I have a different style. I always fast before going on stage. If I eat before going on stage, I will mess up. The time I performed at the MTN Musicfest last year, I suffered. Most of the artists backstage were smoking indian hemp and I was inhaling it. By the time I was going on stage, I was staggering. I have never had a show like that in my life. I didn't even know what I was singing on stage.

As a showbiz person, how have you managed to maintain your marriage and remain scandal-free all this years?
In everything you do, remember that there's a supreme being who we all are accountable to at the end. Always believe in what you do and do things because you believe in them and not because others are doing them; know what that thing has to offer and what you should offer to that thing.
I didn't get married because I just wanted to get married and other people were getting married.What is marriage? Marriage is an institution by God, and if God could put that in place, it means that He wants us to reverence it. Breaking a marriage negatively affects the development of a child. One person alone cannot bring up a child. The man or woman has something to contribute. I think parents that abandon their children are cruel. A large number of children from broken homes never end up very well. That doesn't mean that when one wants to succeed, the marital status of his parents would affect him or that those whose parents’ marriages are intact are the best. But people with their parents together learn better home management skills and they learn from both parents. But marriage breakups destabilize the child.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nigezie’s FEMI ADERIBIGBE on the journey so far + Why he’s not giving up

 The media is a very intrinsic part of the developing Nigerian music industry and Nigezie is an intrinsic part of the Nigerian media. Notes and Tones sat down with the amiable boss of the 24-hour Nigerian music channel, Femi Aderigbigbe, better known as Kwame, to find out the secrets of his success and his views on the Nigerian music industry. He happily told us much more than that. Just read on…

As one of the people at the forefront of the revolution in the Nigerian music industry, how do you rate the progress so far?
The industry is emerging. There's a new zeal and there is a new drive. But in terms of structures, we are not yet there, but the desire and the drive are there and the interest from the public is getting a lot better.

What do you think we have done well so far?
We have almost completely wrestled the interest of the public from foreign content to Nigerian content, and for me that's like 50 percent of the battle because five to ten years ago, if you go to a party or listen to radio or TV, most of what is there is foreign and even the journalists reported more of foreign content. But all that has changed. There's the zeal and passion for things Nigerian. As far as I am concerned, that's a step in the right direction. But what I'm worried about is people not getting carried away with the already recorded success because we still have a lot more battles to be fought and a lot more victories to be won.

What are the things that haven't been done right, both on the part of the musicians, the media and all other areas?
A lot of things. I won't come out to just say that everything is rubbish, but there are a lots of things that have not been done right in terms of planning, research, structures and distribution. We need to professionalize and fix genuine structures for the proper development of our music. The Alaba chaps are just myopic as far as I am concerned, because I think they can make a lot more money if they help put the structures in place; if there are proper records of how many units are being sold. In the process of cheating people, they are also cheating themselves, because they are robbing the country of talents, they are robbing the industry of glamour, and a lot of things that could come to it. Of funding from banks, from finance houses and other areas, because they need to see how profit-able it is before they can put their money on it. Foreign record labels and distribution companies that may want to be a part are dissuaded because everything is like a secret cult and no one knows what he or she is making or what they are not making. There's also a challenge for the media because they have also not well articulated the hopes and aspirations of the Nigerian youths as regards music and entertainment. A lot of artists are not well documented or reported because of monetary considerations or other factors. There has to be a conscious move on the part of the media in terms of propagating the right efforts of Nigerian music and showing the right people to watch out for without any hesitation. There are so many other factors which can be broadly termed, The Nigerian Factor. But if we want to compete internationally, we have to rise beyond all those Nigerian factors because they don't work outside Nigeria. If we want to take our game outside, we have to learn how they do things outside and try and do same.

In the next five years, where do you see Nigerian music?
Right now in the UK, US and all over Africa, Nigerian music is being played in clubs. It has not had that kind of breakthrough on radio and TV because they probably pay the club DJs money to play their songs. They play then repeatedly and when people listen to them repeatedly, they come to accept the songs and that goes a long way in helping to spread Nigerian music. But we need to find a way to also spread our music on radio and TV around the world because they are the only avenues that can help our artists to get concerts in their countries.

How far has Nigezie taken Nigerian music outside Nigeria?
We are in the U.K right now, but the Sky platform which we are on, reaches most other parts of Europe like Italy, Germany, Austria and Dublin. We get calls from those places telling us that they watch us and that they like what we are doing. How to spread our music outside has been one of our greatest challenges. Other international artists have found a way to do that and that's why they feel superior to us. But in terms of beats, rhymes, delivery and talent, we have enough people to compete with the best of them, but we just haven't got our music across to the whole world.

Nigezie would be three this year, what were your dreams when you set out with it?
I started with Global Sounds on TV and while I was on it, I saw an emerging industry and I saw scattered efforts of propagating this industry, but there was no coordinated effort at providing a platform for Nigerian artists to really showcase what they had and that's when the idea of a 24-hour music channel that would showcase the best of the best of Nigerian artists and foreign artists too and I started working on it. Then, HiTV came on and we saw that we could do it together and we started. There were a lot of challenges in terms of finance and infrastructure, but we tugged on and today even though we are still developing, it was a worth-while endeavour.

In those three years, how far have you achieved those dreams?
In terms of brand awareness, I believe that we've really gone far. The average person out there knows about Nigezie and what we do or have come in contact with us in one way or the other and that's remarkable for us. But in terms of technological input and other things we can put into it, it's a growing brand and a marathon race. It's not something that we can complete in a short time. MTV has been there for more than 25 years and for us who are just three years to have made the kind of impact we have, then we are definitely on the right track. When we started, there was no other 24-hour music channel in Nigeria. There was nothing for us to learn from. We made some mistakes, we are still making some mistakes and we are still learning. We keep restrategizing and keep looking at how we can take the game to another level.

What's the state of relationship with HiTV?
They are the platform on which we project our brand. We provide the content.

Why do you still have the Television Entertainment Network on other platforms when Nigezie is already running for 24-hours?
Television Entertainment Network is a syndicated berth of programming on terrestrial television. HiTV is a satellite platform. So, they are two different platforms. We started out on terrestrial platform and we've built a lot of goodwill and patronage on the terrestrial front, so it's not something we can just totally withdraw from. We have to keep the momentum. We only show some of the contents of Nigezie channel here, but to get the full picture, you have to go to Nigezie, get HiTV and watch it 24-hours. Television Entertainment Network is not just for music, it is for movies, fashion, drama ad so many other things.

Is HiTV very comfortable with that?
Everything cannot be on their platform. We are content providers and we had been dealing with AIT before HiTV came. Global Sounds was on AIT, NTA, MiTV and Galaxy, so we have been dealing with lot of other stations before HiTV and they are fine with it. We can even start three more channels on it if we both agree on it. My creativity cannot be limited to one platform. We are even looking at international distribution.

How are you managing with running Nigezie on satellite when the terrestrial platform is more accessible to Nigerians?
A lot of people don't have HiTV yet, but a lot of people still have it. Their penetration is nationwide. Having grown to almost 300,000 subscribers in about three years of operation is most amazing. I think they are doing a fantastic job. Nigerians are always very skeptical about any new product, but when they finally accept you, they stick with you. The feedback has been good and would definitely get better as time goes on. Our goal is to make sure that anytime you switch on HiTV and you tune to Nigezie, you'll be hooked.
 Having come this far and done well in most of your ventures, what would you say is your driving force? I don't know anymore. Maybe I am just on autopilot.

What was driving you before you entered autopilot?
It was just the desire to make a change. When I started Global Sounds, I took the first edition to NTA headquarters because I wanted to be on the NTA network. I don't know where I got the idea that they would let me on from. I didn't really get an encouragement from them, but that further strengthened my zeal to do what I wanted to do and do it better than those that were already on it. So, that has been my way of doing things. All my life, I have been underestimated; people don't see me coming and I guess that's an advantage. When people don't see you coming, they won't know when you get there. I'm just naturally motivated. Things hardly knock me off. They can knock me down, but they can't knock me off. I always stand up, dust myself and keep moving. A lot of Nigerians all over the world are like that.

What happened after the initial rejection?
Someone in NTA still believed in me enough to let me use their studio to shoot the show. So, we did and started out on AIT and Galaxy and I think the quality of what we did impressed a lot of people and they allowed us to show what we had.

What are your hobbies?
I am always jotting something down or on the internet. I play with my kids a lot and that helps me to relax. Those guys don't know what's happening yet. They ask you some questions, you start laughing and all the stress goes away. They do something funny and you just forget about your whole wahala. I am an introvert, I like to spend a lot of time indoors. I just look for whatever would entertain me. I just watch TV or some carton programmes and I just start laughing. But most times, I am always looking for things to inspire in books, in films and television and so on.

Which books are your favourites?
I have stopped reading for a while. I was a Sydney Sheldon person and so many other people. I read anything from Tom Clancy, James Hadley Chase, John Grisham to anything. Even out of boredom sometimes, I read Mills and Boon. But these days, I don't have enough time to sit down and keep reading. I am more of a Google person now. We like fast things here and that's kind of caught up with me.

What does it take for someone to be successful?
It takes the grace of God first. All successes come from God and I believe that when God blesses you, you don't relax on it otherwise hunger go wire you. It takes persistence, courage, tenacity and vision. Courage is the desire and the boldness to get up in the morning when you are not sure whether the day will be good or not. Tenacity is the zeal to continue even when you get knocks on the way, and what makes you go through all those things is the vision that you have inside of you that you want to achieve.


World renowned motivational speaker, author and television personality, Lesley C. Brown, was in Nigeria recently, on the invitation of telecommunications giants, MTN, to speak at the MTN Enriched Lives Seminar. He visited four of the nation's top universities and also came in contact with a number of Nigerians. His experience changed his perception of the people of the most populous black nation on earth as he tells in this interview. Excerpts…

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Les Brown. I am an author, speaker and also a speech coach. I teach people how to effectively tell the story to influence and impact audiences and to advance the causes and missions they believe in. I was born in a poor section of the United States, Miami Florida called Liberty City. It is drug-infested and extremely poor, with a great deal of violence. I was born and abandoned on the floor with my twin brother. We were rescued and when we were six weeks old, we were adopted by Mrs. Mannie Brown.
Why public speaking?
I am involved in this area of speaking, training and self empowerment because I am a product of it. When I was in the fifth grade, I was labelled mentally retarded. I was brought back from the fifth grade to the fourth grade and later failed the eight grade and I had no college training.
But I had a high school teacher who taught me the value of effective communication skills and working on your mind. He said, “Develop your mind and develop your communication skills, because once you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are.” And I have been travelling and speaking around the world for over 40 years now. I am 65.
Why are you in Nigeria?
I am in Nigeria for the second time. I was here in April 2009 at the instance of MTN and what really fascinates me about the work that I am doing with MTN is that the people now have an opportunity to enhance, enrich and empower themselves by having access to information, with this new technology they have with their 85:20 telephone. And that is very fascinating to me because for the first time in the history of the world, poor people have access to the same information that wealthy people have. And they interact through social networks, they can reach things that entertain, enjoy themselves and, more importantly, give them access to information that allows them to transform their lives and transform their communities to make a greater impact on their career professionally.
What about your twin brother?
My twin brother is into security. He works in a prison as a security guard and he also does work in his community and in his church. Ours lives are totally different. He has never ever attended a motivational seminar or workshop. He has only listened through about three or four of my speeches. My mother adopted seven kids and none of my brothers and sisters is involved in the work that I do in terms of upgrading their relationships, seeing the value of reading and listening to motivational messages or going to seminar. I'm like an alien to my brothers and sisters. It’s like I am from another planet. But they are proud of me. They look at me as an exception as opposed to an example of what is possible for them too if they engage in the same process.

You never had college education, what was the process?
Number one is that you have to be very clear about the goals you want to achieve. They have to be goals that are beyond your comfort zone and what is very important about that is, you have never done that before, you have to become someone that you have never been. You don't get what you want to get in life with what you are. Once you become clear about the goals you want to achieve, the next thing that is very important is research. You start studying and following all the directions of the things that you want to achieve through developing yourself in order to become that kind of person. If you want to go from one country to another, you have to get a map or get in contact with someone who knows there very well, so that you can be able to know how to get to your destination. So, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, a game plan and an action plan that will allow you to develop yourself into the person that you need to become in order to achieve that goal. This is the same process in achieving any goal. You also have to be around like minded people, people who think like you think and people you look up to; people who have already achieved what you want to achieve; people who are always reaching and striving to achieve; people who are always smarter than you are; people that you can learn from; people who as a result of your relationship with them, you will be able to give birth to that part of you that you are not aware of.

That means you should always probe into yourself to find out things that are there which you don't know?
Yes, absolutely! You discover those things by attempting to do things that are beyond your comfort zone, things that you are passionate about, and things you want to accomplish. Then, you start pursuing those things, you start working on yourself, you start learning the things that you don't know so that you can discover the things that you need to know that will give you access to this new life and in the process of doing that, you become aware of the other abilities and talents that you have which you are not aware of right now.

You have been a motivational speaker for 40 years and you are 65 years old now, at 25. What were the experiences that made you start?
I was a disc jockey for many years and I was involved in broadcasting and then I went from dee jaying to become a state legislator. I was elected to the higher legislature in Columbus Ohio. When I was appointed to the chairmanship of the Human Resource Committee, my mother became ill with breast cancer. I resigned to go back to Miami to take care of her to fulfil a childhood dream and while there, I had to determine how I was to earn money to pay her medical expenses and that's when I decided to become a motivational speaker.

How many times were you elected into the legislature and at what age were you first elected?
I was elected to the legislature three times. Now, about the age, I am not good with numbers. It is interesting I can tell you thousands of quotes and statistics in studies, but I don't know years and I don't know what room I am in at this hotel. Somebody has to always tell me. I don't know why. That's very weird. It is a fascinating thing, but I don't know how to break it up in years. But if you in the course of this conversation ask me, what's one of the most important quotes Malcom X made? I will say he said “The resolution is within you. That if you don't change, there will not be a revolution.”
What is something that Booker T. Washington said? Booker T. Washington said that, “You have the power to achieve your dreams. It is important that you can with what you have and not give up.” And I can give you quotes and statistics and studies, but I can't give you times or numbers or hotel room numbers.

How then do you find your hotel room?
I find something to write it down with or ask whoever is with me at that time or I go back to the front desk to ask the receptionist.

Has it been like that all along?
The thing is that I do that which I am fascinated about. I read two to three books a week because that is my fascination. When I got into this area, there was nothing like an African-American male speaking to white audiences which comprise the majority of my customer base. So, to develop myself as an intellectual resource and to have a reach over white speakers and their employees who have years of experience with PhDs and MBAs and credentials that I don't have took a lot of study and development on my part to establish myself and my reputation. I became singularly focused on the knowledge that I needed to accomplish my mission.

What is the process of your preparation as regards speaking to particular audiences?
When I became involved in public speaking, I knew that I had to spend plenty of time to study what would be most effective in how you can change a person's mindset in the course of a presentation. How can we change the human mind through verbal communication? Two, having a range of knowledge and skills to come in and do an assessment and find out what the audience needs to hear. Because I don't believe that one speech fits all situations, so I do research. When I came to speak for MTN, I developed an MTN presentation and it was dramatically different from the last presentation. So, the speaking industry has been governed by a course that trains people to “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you have told them”. I train speakers from my perspective. I teach and train speakers, “Never let what you are going to say get in the way of what your audience needs to hear.” Find out who they are. Conduct communication intelligence, ask questions in order to get a good understanding.

What do you find unique in your Nigerian audience?
What I think that is unique in the Nigerian audience than any other audience that I have spoken to is the cultural predisposition to train and to influence and impact. And what I mean by that is: I spoke at four colleges. I have never had the opportunity to speak to an audience that was so respectful and had such a committed listening. Nigerian youths, children and adults have a cultural training that is mind boggling to me. Because they listen at a very deep level towards what you say, while with other audiences that I have spoken to, it is not as deep, it is not as committed, it is not as focused and concentrated. They listen to each word as you speak. That is fascinating to me as a speaker. I love it. It is the best audience on the planet. That's very unique. I have only seen that here and I have never seen that anywhere else, that's why I am coming back.

Before you came to Nigeria, what was your perception of Nigeria?
I sought to find out what MTN wanted me to do. So, what I wanted to find out was one: How viable is advising students and adults to invest in themselves, to have access to technology, to a telephone that can give them access to information. Once I found how valuable that was, not only in terms of using it for social networks and communication, but also today at this time in our history, this is a knowledge-driven world. Knowledge is the new currency. So, to me that's very fascinating because everyday people now have access in the palm of their hands to information that will allow them create new opportunities for themselves; To create relationships with other like-minded partners. Students can get together and do home work and to advance themselves academically so they can create a network where they can communicate to find out the opportunities in the industries where they can work upon graduation or even while in school. So, that to me is very fascinating. We have never had that sort of technology before. When I started speaking 40 years ago, there was nothing like Twitter or social network, YouTube and all the things that allow people to connect around the world.
Do you concentrate more on the message instead of the people?
Both. Because you have to see how it applies. Take for instance, Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world. Is it because they don't have knowledge; they don't have the resources or that they don't have the wherewithal in order to create wealth? Absolutely not! What the technology does is that it gives the same access to the same information to the rich and the poor. So, the everyday person has the chance to duplicate the same accomplishments that the successful ones have.

Without a public speaking appointment at the back of your mind, what was your knowledge of Nigeria?
My knowledge of Nigeria was that of a cut-throat nation; a country with no integrity; a dishonest people; people who have the reputation of being ruthless in how they do business, as a violent place; as a place that one would be fearful of and never desire to come. Many of my friends tried to discourage me from coming here. They told me 'you are crazy. You are going to Nigeria? You must be out of your mind'. One of my eldest daughters said, “I am sorry dad, I can't squeeze a decapitation in my schedule. They cut people's head off.” I said come on. You can't believe CNN which stands for Constant Negative News. You can't buy into that kind of stuff. So, because of the way the media portrayed Nigeria, most people you ask about Nigeria, nine times out of ten, you will hear a very negative story about Nigeria and also from Nigerians. The same things that I hear from people externally is the same thing I hear from Nigerians and that is one of the things that I am very passionate about that I think particularly that this year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Nigeria, that a new story needs to be told. The story of Nigerians as hard working people; who are people of integrity and passionate and have power and intellect.
I have spoken to more black people in Nigeria than I have spoken in the United States for 40 years. And so you have people with an unstoppable desire to want to get to the next level. There's poverty here, but there's spirit here. Nigerians almost have a zero desire of taking their own lives. Nigerians are not suicidal. Nigerians believe that tomorrow will be better in spite of poverty, corruption and people not doing what they are supposed to do in order to make them great. At some point in time, trust me, things will change.

Are you going to take back this message to all the people that tried to discourage you from coming to Nigeria?
Absolutely. In fact, when I get back on my website, I am going to show all the pictures and all the things I experienced and give another view of Nigeria different from what's being portrayed in the news. I think it is a travesty because of this incident with this young man who by the way was not born in Nigeria and was not trained in Nigeria to make Nigeria the face of Al Queda. It is a tragedy to classify Nigeria as a terrorist state and that story must be counteracted. Faith comes by hearing and hearing even if it is a lie and one of the biggest challenges that Nigeria is facing right now is not having a voice in the national arena. And I am talking about voices outside the political arena. One of the things we plan to do is to create a thousand innocent voices of hope; Nigerians who are experiencing uncommon grace and success with the spirit and drive and hunger to create a new life; Everyday Nigerians that the world never hears about, who the world never sees and never reads their stories. We are going to tell their stories.

What is your message to the Nigerian youth?
My key message to the Nigerian youth is that they should become clear. What are the goals you want to achieve, professionally, what are the kind of legacies you want to leave and most importantly, what's the new story that you are going to create with your life that will reflect the real Nigerian?


Bukola Folayan (aka Bouqui) has stayed the course since she arrived on the Nigerian music scene about five years ago. She chose to do gospel and do it at par with the demands and innovations of the contemporary secular hip hop style. So far, she has done well and with two albums, B.O.U.Q.U.I and Redefinition, to her name, she seems to know what she wants. But it is not just simple rap music for Bouqui, and in this chat with us, she explains the things that set her apart from the crowd...

Why did you name your last album, Redefinition?
I titled it Redefinition because a lot of people know Bouqui the brand and a lot of people ask questions about who she really is. I wanted people to really see me for who I am and what I stand for. I wanted them to listen to the album and all the songs in it and be able to identify me for what I stand for. I am not trying to compromise, I am not trying to be somebody else. This is who I really am.I kind of redefined myself. My first album was titled B.O.U.Q.U.I and I now redefined what B.O.U.Q.U.I actually is in this second album.

You left the country immediately after releasing the album without doing any promotional work on it. Where is your primary market?
Anybody who has ear is my primary market. I am not an industry person. I am not doing music, I am not an entertainer, I'm not an artist, I am a minister. I am a Christian. I see myself as an evangelist. So, I am not tied to a particular audience. The message is what pushes me to wherever I go. I'm not trying to be like someone else. I am speaking the word of God and taking it to anybody that is ready to listen. My songs are message-driven and it is because I am a Christian and I believe that the first and only thing I should be talking about is Jesus and what He means to me. And so, that way, I take all the styles that come to me and use them to talk about Jesus. He is the one that opens all the doors everywhere I go. Why I keep travelling is because I am not trying to be an artist. If you try to be an artist, they will limit you to a particular genre of music. Nobody does that to me because I am not singing about just love, I am not singing about a girl or a boy, I am singing about Jesus and whatever language or style that comes to me is what I minister with.

Since what you went for was a promotional tour for your album, why didn't you do any in Nigeria?
My music is message-driven. God is the person I talk about all the time. He is the one who opens the doors and when he does, I won't say that I'm not entering because I need to be in Nigeria to do a promotional tour. I am like an arrow in the hands of an archer and wherever I am pointed to is where I go. I don't choose the direction I want to be pointed in. I go to wherever I am sent. I am a conveyor of a message, so I can't say I want to do professional tours in Nigeria when God wants me to go elsewhere. When God wants me to do a promotional tour in Nigeria. He will open the door and I will do it. But if He says it is in America or London, I can't say I am not going. Because the reason why people are not making it in this industry is because they want to be industry people. They are doing what they do for the money, fame, the blings and you can hear it through their songs and what they talk about.
Their music is not message-driven and everybody is just trying to be like the next person and do whatever they feel is acceptable. They talk about girls, booty and all sort of things and because they are talking about those, doors don't open, because people have heard all those before. People need a fresh message; people need something that will give them hope and if God sees that this person has something that people need to hear, then He will open the doors for the message to get to the people. I am not even trying to build a fan base, I am just going as I am led. I am not trying to open the doors myself, when they open, I just go with the flow.
How did the door open this time around?
I don't know. I just got calls, different calls and I kept moving every week. I went from New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, Texas, Arlington, Dallas, Houston, Maryland, over 15 different places. I wasn't even trying to sing in a nightclub. I was singing in churches and concerts. I could have said, “I owe it to my strong management or myself, but it was God all the way.” I have a good management and they are doing well, but when God decides to take you on as a project, He does. I was moving every weekend. I was singing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I could be in the east coast this week and the next one, I will be in the south coast. I love every bit of it. For five months, I was singing every weekend non-stop.

What was the reception like?
Because of what I do, the reception was fantastic. I am singing to people that understand where I am coming from; people that have been there; people that have kindred spirit; Christians that understand. I am singing in a nightclub where they are drunk, but people that when you stop your song in the middle and you are sharing a testimony, they have been there and understand the power of God. The reception was awesome. When you get someone buying the CD for $5,000, you know that it's not about the money, but the fact that you have touched them.
A girl told me that she drove for seven hours with her husband, just to see my performance. Last week, she told me over the internet that she was sick and then she remembered some things I said while I was in concert and she said to herself that if this girl can have this much faith and God is doing all these things for her, then God would do for her too. Those are the kind of testimonies I want to hear. I don't' want to hear that Alaba gave me N50 million and then the song is crap. I want to impact souls, I want people to look back 20 years from now and remember how I impacted their lives.

But here you still feature at secular shows...
My music is message-driven. What you talk about is who you are, so, if I get a secular show that wants me to talk about a character or value or anything clean, I will go. The issue is not about the gospel, the thing is about message and me having the chance to say what I want to say. The message depicts the platform. When I am invited for a show and there are like 50 people on the bill and you want us to do like two minutes each, you don't get the best out of me like that. You get my best when I can sing and talk because I believe it is the message your life is preaching that is most important. I turn down all those shows because I want to grace stages that not only will feel the gift and the talent, you also relate with me. I am not an entertainer, I am a minister of the gospel and you don't condition what I say on stage. I am not about the money. I would rather go for a gig that is not paying me and I will have the opportunity to reach out to the youths because they are the future of tomorrow. Imagine when a young person thinks that the best way to dress is how Beyonce dresses or the way to talk is the way Lil' Wayne talks. I don't want my kids to grow up like that and since you can't keep them away from the TV and the internet, we need people that would infuse character in their music and make you know that it's not just about the money.

Do you see any competition from others in what you do?
In the secular world, people are running on tracks and they are all trying to overtake themselves. When they get in each other's way, they push themselves around and it becomes rowdy and dirty, but in the world I come from, we are talking of something that people need to hear. If another person comes today to join us to talk about Christ, I will never hate or feel threatened by it because we are talking about something that needs to be heard. For me, the merrier. If anyone comes in and is talking about Christ with a genuine heart, I would recommend you for anything, even when I'm not around because there is a shortage of what I do. I am like the only female rap gospel act in the whole world. Everywhere I went, there was no female gospel rap. There were singers that could rap, but they just rap a little and go back to singing. So, if I see more people coming to do this, I will be happy because that's the only way the job can be done.

Are you interested in getting ordained and becoming a full-time minister?
No. I don't want to be ordained, but I want to always be ready to be used by God for anything. The thing is that I am a different kind of Christian. A lot of people put everything in boxes and stereotypes. I love God so much, I am a rapper, I am still crazy, you can see my hairstyle, but I still love God and I am still taking about Him. Some people could be ordained, but they still won't love God half as much as I do, but we can't judge others. It is not really about being ordained. Everybody has the same ability to teach people about God and about His goodness. If you are doing that, as far as I am concerned, you are a pastor. Even if you are not wearing collars, ordination just makes it formal and that is just a title and you are not taking the title to anyone.

Tell us about your record label.
It is called Bouqui's Place Entertainment. It was launched last year and we are just trying to test the waters gradually. Then, there is the management arm of Bouqui's Place Entertainment.

What are your plans for your Nigerian audience?
I have always performed here in Nigeria and since I returned from this tour, I have been performing at different locations in Nigeria. I am still here for them, but they should recognize the fact that I am a minister of God and the message I have is universal and wherever God takes me to is where I will go.


Dr. Alistair Soyode is one of the many Nigerians in the Diaspora doing the country proud. With his TV station, Ben TV (Bright Entertainment Network), he showcases the talents and promises of Nigeria, Africa and the Caribbean to the United Kingdom audience where he is based. Ben TV has been consistent in doing this for the seven years it has been in existence.
Last year, realizing the great promise of the Nigerian music industry, Ben TV reached a unique agreement with the Primetime Group in Nigeria to synergically broadcast Nigerian content, especially music, in the UK and Nigeria. The arrangement would provide Ben TV with a platform to reach the Nigerian audience back home and also give Primetime TV a footing in the UK.
Soyode, who is both a member of the Re-branding Nigeria Project and chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Europe (NIDOE), talks to Notes and Tones about the arrangement and the challenges of running a TV channel with foreign contents in a foreign land…

What prompted this move and how are you going to go about it?
When you look at Nigeria as a country, you ask yourself this: “What do we sell? What do we export? What do we provide for the international community?” In the sporting industry, we haven't done that much in football, which we pride ourselves on. In the tourism industry, we also haven't done much. Then, in Nollywood, we may have the second to the largest movie industry in the world, but which Nigerian movie has been recognized at a major international award? It is in the music industry that we have received more attention lately. That is why we need to give the music industry more attention and encourage the players in that industry, give the industry more leverage and make it work better than any other industry we have in Nigeria.

Do you intend to show a lot of Nigerian music on Ben TV?
We would be showing good music videos showcasing Nigerian content and lifestyle. We will entertain people and expose the culture and lifestyle of the people to the diasporic experience. It is not just about the music, it is about the lifestyle and culture of the people. We want to put music on the platform it needs to get to people outside Nigeria. We have the music and our artists are gaining international recognition and we can't fail them.

How come Ben TV has not done much on the home front?
We are very willing to promote Nigerian music and also come on the home front. But if you don't find the right person or partner to work with, you might never succeed. We have just got that and you would definitely see us home. We have been promoting Nigerian music and culture for the past six years and we have done well.

How profitable is running such a venture as Ben TV in the U.K?
It is not profitable. I am selling a product, a nation, a rhythm that people have a question mark on. Financially, it is not profitable at all and there are challenges. We have a choice to do something else, but we still choose to keep doing what we do because it is right.
Don't you have a Nigerian community in the U.K?
We have, but they alone won't be able to keep the station afloat. If they are, we won't be doing some of the things we do to survive. We're coming back to Nigeria to find business. I am promoting my country out there and my country should appreciate what I am doing and people who have business to offer me should come forward and do so. It is not like I am begging. I am not begging; I just want to be appreciated. One can run until he stops and then he would need people to pull him up.

How have you been coping?
It is not by my power or knowledge. I just give God the glory because I don't' know how. I have had a lot of challenges, a lot of companies and governments owe us money, but we still manage to stay afloat. Sometimes it is very hard for us because we can't pay what we should be paying, but we are still there and would still continue to do the best we can, not just for Nigeria, but for Africa as a whole.
Is the Nigerian government in any way involved in what you do or appreciate you for what you do?
We need to give credit to people who believe in what we do and there are quite a number of those. But they need to get involved and help us achieve our dreams. Which media is international in the last six years, promoting Nigeria? It is Ben TV. Which media shows the electoral reforms and what the people are going through in Nigeria? It is Ben TV. Still not taking the credit away from other media houses, be it electronic or print, but we have been consistent for seven years. We are international for seven years. We have represented Nigeria from the Obasanjo era to the Yar'Adua era. Who else has done that? The stations here are not international. Some of them are now becoming international, but we have been there for long. If someone is doing something for you and you absolutely love what the person is doing, you should do something for that person. I don't want to believe that if we are being negative like some other media, that we would have been more recognized. Our country is good and if you give the youth the necessary empowerment they need, then things would improve. I am a committee member of the Re-branding Nigeria Project. That's another challenge, but the fact is that we are all Nigerians. If you run away from this country to another place, you would never feel as homely as you would feel in Nigeria.

How did the whole idea of Ben TV come about and what were you into before then?
I was in the U.K and was always thinking of something to do because I needed money. You know when you are looking for money, you think of almost anything that would give you the break that you are looking for in life. I was into telecoms, then I was writing some programmes for some TV stations, then before you knew it, I had a TV station on my hands.

Don't you see the need for launching a Nigerian channel of Ben TV?
It is not about launching a new station here in Nigeria, it is about bringing our station from the U.K into Nigeria. Right now, we are speaking to some of the cable and satellite companies in Nigeria to see if we can be on their package. But we don't know why some people don't want to have us. Maybe they see us as competitors, but we will find out those that don't see us as competitors and work with them.

What's the reception of a TV station with a large foreign content in the U.K?
The Nigerian community in the UK is more than a million and the African community there is more than two million. What we do is that we have programmes from as many African countries as possible. So, we are really a centre for a variety of programmes across Africa and the Caribbean. We have Caribbean programmes on the station which are presented by their own people. We are not just about Nigeria, but we deliver the largest Nigerian content that people see as independent, free, unbiased and neutral.

What's your viewership like around the world?
I cannot give a figure around the world because we are only tracing the figures in the UK. So, we can say that we have something like 60 percent of the Nigerian and African audience in the U.K.

What's your workforce like? What's the racial mixture of your staff?
Depending on the programme, sometimes I look around and I don't see any blacks. We employ capable hands from all over the world.

How many channels do you transmit on?
I don't believe in people doing multiple channels. My message is that of bridging the gap between everybody, between the militants and non-militants, eastern and western parts of Nigeria, between the Africans in the diaspora and those at home, between the white people and black people, between the female and male and I can do that with one channel. So, I don't really see the need for multiple channels.

How much do you think the Re-branding Nigeria Project has changed the image of Nigeria?
Nigeria is a very big product to sell. The project is not about changing our green and white colours, it is about making Nigerians realize the need for change and convincing them to embrace it. We do not have all the basic amenities of life, but we are on our way to getting them. It is the people involved that matter; it is Nigerians that matter. It is about Nigerians realizing that we are the ones to turn things around for ourselves. We should begin to look at things positively and working towards achieving our dreams.

What was the process of the election that got you the position of the NIDOE chairman?
The election was conducted by an electoral commission of the European body in Paris, with representatives from the 17 chapters in Europe. Some Nigerian ambassadors and High commissioners were in attendance.

What are your responsibilities as the chairman of NIDOE?
Some of the responsibilities are to oversee the entire collective interests of Nigerians in Europe towards Nigeria's development, co-ordinate issues and matters affecting Nigerians in the diaspora, working with the government in bilateral relations with Europe, using and coordinating the expertise and skills of Nigerians to achieve mileage back in Nigeria. NIDOE has contributed to many issues and discussion on the positive development of Nigeria. We do hope that as many states as are seeking for experts in health, medicine service delivery and various other areas can partner with us. We have these professionals who are willing and able to help. Our will and mandate is towards national development for and in Nigeria.

Any views on the absenteeism of our president and the broadcast through the BBC? 
The president, we heard, is recuperating well in Saudi Arabia. We do hope that we will be able to provide the video/TV interview which is sought by Nigerians.


9ice's marriage has crashed. The union, with Toni Payne, which was solemnized on Thursday, July 17, 2008, officially hit the rocks as a result of irreconcilable differences. A statement made available to the press on Friday, January 8, 2010, by his publicist, stated that, “The couple have agreed to go separate for a while, even though they continue to remain good friends and business partners. Their baby, Zion, will reside with Toni for now.” An unconfirmed source, however, told s that the lady became domineering and unmanageable at some point.
9ice (real name, Abolore Akande) met Toni in 2006 at comedian Gbenga Adeyinka's 10th anniversary celebration held at Lagbaja's Motherlan, in Ikeja, Lagos. They started dating and in July 2008, at the Surulere Marriage Registry, Lagos, exchanged marital vows. Their only child, a baby boy who they named Zion, was born on December 4, 2008.

Towards the end of last year, the story of the alleged break-up of 9ice's marriage had filtered to ENCOMIUM Weekly. We made the necessary calls to 9ice's close pals who should be in the know, but they all denied it. His publicist equally denied having any knowledge of such then. His producer and close friend, ID Cabasa, again claimed ignorance of any rift or signs of one. His actual reply to the said phone call then was: “I haven't heard of any problems between 9ice and his wife. In fact, 9ice just left my place now and he never showed signs of having any marital problems. Let me call him and get back to you.” Cabasa, expectedly, never got back to us.
The suspected reason for the alleged break-up then was that the couple were having disagreements over 9ice's management arrangements. Toni wanted to remain in charge of her husband's affairs while 9ice wanted to outsource that.
Even though there has hardly been any report of an excellent showing by 9ice on stage, things have largely worsened lately. His performances at the shows he featured towards the end of 2009 were just short of tragic. He never impressed on any and even had to cut some of them short when things got very bad. Of particular note was The Ovation Red Carol where he didn't even finish singing Gbamu Gbamu, before abruptly quitting the stage. Though the sound system paraded at the event was bad, 9ice was singing some beats slower than his CD which was being played by the DJ. All of which could also be as a result of his marital problems.

About his albums, Tradition is the third. His first was Certificate (2006), which failed to launch his career, but Gongo Aso (2008), brought him fame, wealth and exposure. The latest album, Tradition, has not lived up to its billing. There are even reports of some radio DJs blacklisting it. We got across to a number of DJs and some of them confirmed the story while others said they know nothing about it.
Three DJs at Raypower FM, DJ Neptunes, Xcris and Kaysmith, all stated that they had no problems with 9ice.
DJ Neptunes said: “I don't know about it. Anytime I am on radio, I play his music. There's no wahala on our side.”
For DJ Xcris: “9ice has no problems with us at Raypower. I play his music.”
And DJ Kaysmith: “I don't know about any problems with the DJs. But I play his music.”
DJ Rexy, who is with UNILAG FM, acknowledged having heard about the issue. “It is true that he has some problems with some DJs, but 9ice is like a brother to me. He has been nice to me and no matter what happens, I will play his music.”
DJ Vinnie who works at Radio Continental and Primetime out-rightly rejected the story. “It's not true. I play his music. 9ice has not done anything to the DJs. But there had been a case when an artist was blacklisted by the DJs. An example is Terry G, when he offended one of our senior DJs, we stopped playing his music and he had to apologise.”
But DJ KLM, who is at Rhythm 93.7 FM, noted that there was something wrong in the relation of 9ice and the DJs. “Nobody actually blacklisted him, but the way he is going about the promotion of his current album is not good. When Gongo Aso came out, we supported him and the album became a success. When he was struggling, he was very humble and related with us, but these days, he doesn't give a damn about anybody. He is now a 'big boy' and that's not right.”
And DJ Humility concluded it thus: “9ice's management is not good. He doesn't have a good management. They are busy going about their own business and there's no good rapport with the DJs. Their PR network is the problem and nothing else. I am sorry about his family breaking up, it's not a good start for a young man.”

Soforte Entertainment is an entertainment marketing outfit owned by singer, Lara George and her husband, Barrister Gbenga George. They are the ones marketing 9ice's Tradition and we sought their reaction to the development.
Barrister George, the CEO, had this to say with regards to the separation story. “I have been trying to get in touch with him since I heard the story without any success yet. Whatever happens, it is not a good development and I am not happy about it.”
On the progress of the album. “We have pushed out 1.6 million units and the album is doing well in the market. We have not even started proper promotion for the album because it came out during the festive period when everything was tight. We don't even have a video yet and we are still doing well in the market.
“What happens is that a lot of people are not giving the album the chance to grow, they are immediately placing it side by side with Gongo Aso and that is not right. Gongo Aso was a monster hit and Tradition is barely two months old in the market. I have sampled a lot of opinions and they are basically balanced on the street. Some people like the album while others don't. The album is a typical 9ice album.”
About the DJs blacklisting the album. “I have heard of it, he continued, “and I know that it is not every DJ that supports it. I know a lot of them are playing the songs and a lot of people keep hearing them. I don't even believe that any DJ would intentionally stop playing a good song. Most DJs support 9ice.”

Though the initial press release stated that the couple would not be granting any interviews at the moment on the issue, we still made attempts to talk to the parties concerned and hear their own sides, but met with little success. 9ice remained incommunicado. His manager also refused to talk to us, but redirected us back to the publicist. “I am not in a good mood to talk about the issue at the moment. Please, talk to Mr. Ayeni Adekunle,” and he supplied a couple of Ayeni's numbers which we already had. When contacted, he referred us to their press release.
About five of ID Cabasa's numbers which we called never went through.
2Phat, another member of Coded Tunes, who is the second in command to Cabasa feigned ignorance of the development as at Saturday, January 9, 2010, when we called him. “I just got back into the country yesterday and I haven't been in contact with anybody,” he said.

But Toni has been quite busy on her Facebook page. As at press time, we had observed three different 'Status' posts. The first one which was posted at noon of Friday, January 8, 2010, read, “Mo lenu bi pon pon pon.” About six hours later, she had, “My God is faithful…Who God has blessed…” And at about noon on Saturday, January 9, 2009, we read, “My Zion, My Love, My son…Same way I watched you take your first steps, I shall watch you grow into an outstanding man we can be proud of. Amen! Everyday of my life, I thank God for the most precious stone we laid in Zion…”

She also got various reactions. Some of them read:
'Toni, stay strong and calm. A woman that have (sic) gotten to your level and still fell in love with a nobody, and now that nobody done become somebody come dey misbehave! Fame never last (sic) and cannot give everlasting happiness. At the end of the day, every man NEEDS a woman that loves him for whom he is and not what he has. Letting little popularity sidetrack u means u weren't even worth it to begin with. All the sexcapades, flatteries, ego-boasters, parties, 'acquired friends' etc that come with fame will fade 'cos fame never lasts…and at the end of it all, whom will u return home to?
May God be ur strength. Take care of Zion and may God give us courage during these trying times!
PS: Word of advice…steer clear of long distance relationships if possible…It could work rarely, but not most of the time. God bless u!”
Another comment read:
“Don't tell me it's real Payne, I nid answer plus u guys are good 2geda don't damage Zion's future pls.”
Yet another one was:
“Mrs. 9ice, better half of 9ice, d only woman created 4 9ice, I come against evr spirit (sic) of Hollywood in u guy's marriage. Mama ZI, want u 2 knw dat d devil kns d plans God ve 4 ur family dis yr so pls dear don't give devil a chance ok! Am (sic) praying 4 u guys n u be strong too is (sic) going 2 be better dan (sic) it use (sic) be. Cheers.”


Comedian Gbenga Adeyinka 1st, who they met at his 10th anniversary celebration in 2006, was very sad. “It's a shame they've broken up. While they were together, I was happy for them; I felt very privileged at the fact that they met at my event and that their marriage always had a reference to me. I was very proud of them. But now that they have broken up, I feel very sad. I was a family friend to them and I feel this is something they can work out. If I were them, I would work it out, even if for nothing else, for their child's sake.”
Rapper, Ruggedman, told us that he was actually the one that introduced them to each other at the event. He said he met Toni Payne some years back when he was still promoting his first album. “I knew her when I was promoting my first album. She was just a blogger then and I wanted to get on the internet. When she got back to the country, we met and she helped me towards the promotion of my work, both on the internet and overseas. She told me she likes 9ice's music, so when we met 9ice at Gbenga Adeyinka's event, I introduced them to each other and they took it from there. It is a very sad development for the industry. I pray they resolve it amicably. Even if they don't, let them be mature about it.”

Lord of Ajasa who is a very close pal of 9ice had very little to say. “I am trying to get to him, but his number doesn't go through. I am very shocked at the news because he is my brother and if anything happens to him, it affects me too. His wife has been abroad since and I don't know how they managed to get to this point without my knowledge. I am very sad.”

The 'Big Boy' whose wife gave birth to a baby girl last year was more expressive. “It's a very disheartening development for the industry. Only God knows what could have happened. We don't know what could have caused it. It is not encouraging. A lot of people are marrying and divorcing and that's not good for one's image.”
We also asked whether 9ice's celebrity status could have caused it. He disagreed. “No matter who you are and what you do, as soon as you enter your house, all the celebrity aura about you goes off and you are just an ordinary husband to your wife or father to your children. I can bet you that Jay Z and Beyonce are just ordinary people to themselves and you can't get many more celebrity couples bigger than that.
“What has happened to 9ice's marriage is just a case of something not working out anymore. Friends quarrel with each other and marriages go sour at times and this is just what has happened. But it's quite unfortunate,” he concluded.
Born Abolore Akande on January 17, 1980, he hails from Ogbomosho in Oyo State, but grew up in Bariga, Lagos. He attended Abeokuta Primary School and CMS Grammar School, Lagos. He later proceeded to Lagos State University, Ojo, to study Law but dropped out to concentrate on his music. He has featured in the songs of a number of artists including Lord of Ajasa, 2Shotz and Ruggedman. He released his debut album, Certificate in 2006. Gongo Aso followed in 2008 and last year, Tradition came.
9ice is one of the top artists in Nigeria. He has won numerous awards for his music, including a MOBO (Music of Black Origin), MAMA (MTV Africa Music Awards), Hip Hop World Awards and so many more. He charges between N2 million and N3.5 million per show. And has properties in Abule Egba and Lagos Mainland. He has a studio in his house at Abule Egba.
9ice is also the CEO of Alapomeji Records which has artists like the Ajayi Brothers, Seriki and Kayefi, on board.

Toni studied Video Digital Arts at the California State University, USA. She is based in Los Angeles, USA and is the CEO of Toni Payne line of cosmetics and clothes. She also publishes an online magazine named the Nigerian Entertainment Magazine. And conceptualized the design of 9ice's Gongo Aso album. She is rumoured to have dated a number of top Nigerian musicians, prior to meeting and marrying 9ice.


IT is very ironic that the best show of the year, so far, is a free show. Yes. But this is not for the first time. Since its inception four years ago, The Experience, has consistently lived up to its billing as the biggest, most encompassing and most organized concert in Nigeria, and possibly in Africa. And this is saying a lot.
Organised by Pastor Paul Adefarasin of House on the Rock, The Experience, parades the best gospel musicians the world can boast of. They converge in Nigeria by this time every year and in one night give children of God an overdose of the gospel. Last year's edition was partially disrupted by rain, but this year's went on smoothly. This is an account of how it happened…

Apart from being a symbol of national unity, having hosted our post-independence celebration parades and other state functions during the time of Lagos as the nation's capital, The TBS, has been the home of The Experience since it debuted in 2006. It took close to two weeks to get it in shape for this year's edition and the results of such elaborate preparations were evident on the night of Friday, December 4, 2009.
The seats in the main bowl were carefully and beautifully arranged in convenient patterns to cater for the heavy traffic of people that descended on the square. There were two sections, the VIPs and the popular stand. Then, there were the bleachers. These places were completely filled up and the crowd still spilled over to the cricket pitch where events were transmitted through giant screens. There were also giant screens placed at strategic positions in the main bowl to further transmit the event to the very large crowd. With banners and flyers everywhere.

Even though The Experience is primarily a Christian show, attendance was not restricted. People from all denominations and backgrounds were warmly welcomed into the presence of God. This year's attendance should be in the region of almost half a million, an almost 100,000 increase from last year's edition.
Among the notable attendees were Governor Babatunde 'Isaac' Fashola of Lagos State (the consortium of religious leaders present collectively changed his middle name, Raji, to Isaac). His wife, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola was also present. Former Head of State, Retired General Yakubu Gowon, Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN. Actresses Monalisa Chinda and Stephanie Okereke were also among the notable faces seated at the VIP section.

Resplendent gentleman, Mr. Femi Segun, was assisted by Muyiwa Olanrewaju, who came in from the UK. Comedians Gordons and MC Abbey; radio hosts, Yaw of Wazobia FM and Freeze of Cool FM, were the comperes of the night.
While Mr. Segun kept on announcing the arrival of special guests, Mr. Olanrewaju introduced the acts. Freeze and Yaw also introduced the guests, but remained in the background while Gordons and MC Abbey provided comic relief. It was a well worked out arrangement and there was never a dull moment throughout the proceedings.

The massive well-lit stage had The Experience written all over it. The background was a range of cascading lights which also spelt out the name of each performer. The lighting was excellent and the sound carried into the outside Lagos night. Particularly of note is the fact that at no point did the stage, lighting and sound system experience any technical hitch. Everything was seamlessly coordinated and everybody heard and saw the word of God and His servants in action, crisp and clear.

For an event of such magnitude, emergency services were very visible. Members of the Nigerian Red Cross Society were at very vantage positions, looking out for the crowd. There was also a clinical stand on the premises. Here was where any accident, which was of a very negligible number and mostly minor, was taken. There was also a medical laboratory that offered various tests, free-of-charge, to any interested member of the audience.

Young designer and The Future Awards 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year, Uche Nnaji, who is also a member of the Household of God, had specially designed The Experience T-shirts on sale. There were six different designs out there, but they all had the same loud message. The number '4' was also ubiquitous because this was the fourth edition. Though the majority of the sales were made prior to the event so that people could wear them to the show, a few were still sold for N4,000 at the venue.

A Bible verse reads, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” People obeyed this to the letter on December 4, 2009. since the last FIFA Confederation Cup in South Africa, the plastic trumpet popularly called Vuvuzela in South Africa, has become a part of our sport supporters' paraphernalia. The Nigerian own is a shorter model, but seemingly makes as much noise as its South African counterpart. They were everywhere at The TBS on the night of the event and the people dutifully used them, together with all the other kinds of whistles on sale.

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and Bishop Tudor Bizmark, from Harare, Zimbabwe, delivered the sermons. There were also a couple of prayers for Lagos (done by Rev. Akinboboye) and another for Nigeria by the duo of Pastor Sam Adeyemi and Pastor Richardo Watson from South Africa. They prayed for God to displace bad leadership and enthrone leaders who have the people at heart in power. Other ministers of God and leaders of various congregations present were Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Bishop Obi Onubogu, Rev. Victor Adeyemi and so many others.

There were a couple of speeches from Mr. Ajumogobia and Governor Fashola. Ajumogobia commended Pastor Paul Adefarasin for putting together an event of such magnitude. Fashola's speech was also in the same vein but it took quite a while for the crowd who were excited at having their popular governor with them to quieten down and let him speak.

Midway into the event, Muyiwa Olanrewaju, announced a competition. Singing youths who are not below 21 years of age were invited to Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Sunday, December 6, 2009, to audition for a chance to travel to the USA and appear on The Sunday Show, hosted by Kirk Franklin. There is only one slot available, but they said they are open to appearances of not less than 1,000 people.

The Experience 2009 properly kicked off at 7.30 p.m. The first performers were the in-house choir of the House on the Rock, the Chosen Treasure with Lionel Peterson. Then, Sammie Okposo came up with the handkerchief and Wellu Wellu dance. He recently reconciled his differences with Pastor Adefarasin and his first performance at The Experience is an attestation to this fact. He raised the spirit of the people before Lara George came and got them speaking in tongues. Some people cried while others just marvelled at the delivery of the mother of one. Her song, Mu Mi Dele is one of the deepest songs to come out of this country.
Timi Dakolo, winner of the first Idols West Africa, was also a beauty to watch. After his song, Let It Shine, he went into a medley of some of the very popular gospel tunes around. His vocal talent was very evident, but some members of the audience felt he needs more original songs. Next was the beautiful Chevelle Franklin. She and her back-up singers had dresses made with the Jamaican flag and another one in the background.
At 9.30 p.m, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, brought in a traditional flavour to the proceedings. Backed up with Gan gan drums, the Commander dished out some of his evergreen tunes for almost 30 minutes. It was very fulfilling to watch such an old hand happily singing to God's glory and carrying everybody along.
10.00 p.m was the turn of Mike Aremu. The gifted saxophonist was at his vintage best while dishing out saxophone gospel tunes and leading the audience in a dance session.
10.30 p.m saw the petite but energetic Nikki Laoye ascend the stage. A combination of excellent rap skills and well synchronized choreography session with her dancers earned her high marks from the audience.
11.00, multiple award winning Fred Hammond climbed the stage and took the crowd through varying emotions. There was serenity when he went slow but his Holy Ghost Party accelerated things. He even had to borrow an extra two minutes before he could conclude his planned performance.
The Rooftop MCs have gone completely rocky. This was the exclamation on a lot of people's mouths when the duo of Adeyoola 'Soulsnatcha' Adekunle and the new father, Olaitan 'Sokleva' Hughes, climbed the stage. Their rock rendition of their songs introduced a new flavour into the night showed their versatility as musicians. Phil Briscoll and Lara George did the national anthem, a verse apiece, after them.
12.50, Ron Kenoly, who it was later revealed was turning 65 the next day, was next. We are virtually all familiar with his music and the crowd happily joined him to do song after song. Phil Briscoll followed suit and his happiness at serving God was there for all to see. He sang, talked and trumpeted till Tom Brooks joined him on the stage. Pastor Adefarasin, later joined them and they sang, He's Alive Again, together.
When Don Moen appeared at about 3.00 a.m and wanted to leave about an hour later, the people were loath to see him go. Such is the power and appeal of this great man of God that after performing at all the editions so far, he still tops the list of those requested by the audience to come again.
The siblings, Bebe and Cece Winans, are also another every year visitor to The Experience. It was graceful to watch members of the same family fully dedicating their lives to the service of God.
It was when Donny Mclurkin came that the spill-over crowd in the adjoining cricket pitch was asked to make some noise. And they did and those in the main bowl heard it loud and clear. Donny's songs are also very popular among the Nigerian Christian populace and they showed this when they sang with him song after song.

Last year, the rains deprived Kirk Franklin a performance. This year, he was made the headliner of the event, so he was coming on last. He brought in some special equipment for his performance and while they were being fixed, there was a lull.
Yaw, who was appearing on stage for the first time after having operated from the background for most of the evening, teamed up with MC Abbey to provide comic relief. They did such a good job that Kirk Franklin joined them on the stage. And they took on him.
The high point of it came when MC Abbey, who though short, said he’s a shade taller than Kirk. He then referred to Kirk as having 'shortcomings' because of this. This really hit the spot with the crowd and they couldn't stop laughing for quite a while.

As the last performer, Kirk Franklin, revealed that he had been given a free hand by Pastor Adefarasin, it was already dawning by this time. But a large number of the audience who had been standing all through the night were still very willing to sing and dance. Those in the popular area began scaling the short iron fence used to separate them from the VIPs and the guards and bouncers who had maintained perfect watch all through the night had to let them be.
Kirk demanded to be taught some Nigerian dance steps and there were a number of volunteers. Prominent among them was MC Abbey whose genuine dance steps makes a complete entertainment package.
When Kirk finally stopped, Pastor Paul Adefarasin invited back all the performers to the stage and they sang 'Happy Birthday' to Ron Kenoly. Ron also took the mic to do a Yoruba song to the admiration of the audience. They then spoke about their happiness to be part of The Experience 2009 and promised to come back for more.

The seven Halleluyahs were used to end the show and those that had given their lives to Christ were invited forward for a little chit-chat session while the rest were dismissed at exactly 6.30 a.m, Saturday, December 5, 2009. It was exactly 11 hours of non-stop Godly entertainment, not counting the hours that a large number of the audience who arrived the TBS in the morning of Friday, and those that came in from a different states spent to be in the presence of God. And all was for free.

BRACKET WAS MY INVENTION (Bistop, Third and abandoned member of the group) - Also claims ownership of “Yori Yori” and most other songs on the album.

Every music loving Nigerian and even some non-music loving ones have heard the song “Yori Yori” and appreciated the group, Bracket, who gave us the song. The young men, Obumneme Ali, aka Smash and Ozioko Nwachukwu, alias Vast, have become pop stars and have performed at some of the biggest shows in the land and even outside. The song itself is one of the biggest songs of year 2009 and the young men have smiled to the bank.

It is also common knowledge that Bracket used to be three in number and their third member, Amobi Igwebuike, aka Bistop (Business Top), left the group after their first album, HAPPY DAYS, proved to be a commercial failure. In an interview Bracket granted to NOTES AND TONES back in April after the release of their album, LEAST EXPECTED, they stated that Bistop left the group in order to go back to school and concentrate on his education. They also stated their openness to welcome him back to the group if he ever wished to rejoin them.

All those statements have now been discredited by Bistop. He appeared a couple of weeks back with his own side of the story. Starting from the beginning, he told NOTES AND TONES about his meeting with the other members of the group and how he formed the group.

He met Vast at a barbing salon in the university town of Nsukka back in 1998. They were introduced to each other by the barber who noticed that they both had a flair for music. They then started out musically as a group with the name, Furious B.V.

In 2002, they auditioned for STAR QUEST, but did not make any headway.

Smash joined in 2003 and they first changed their name to SOUTH BRACKET before finally settling on BRACKET.

In 2004, they concluded the recording of their debut album, HAPPY DAYS, and he took it to Nwachukwu Mamah, aka Big Nis, who had the resources to finance it. Mama is the son of transportation giant, Igwe James Ogbonnaya Mamah , owner of IFESINACHI TRANSPORT LIMITED. Mama, who was a novice in the music business, was very interested in what they had. He backed them up and went on to form APE PLANET RECORDS, on whose imprint they released their album.

In 2005, they released HAPPY DAYS, but never made any money from it.

In 2008, they started working on their second album, which came out as LEAST EXPECTED. According to Bistop, he wrote most of the songs in the album, including “Yori Yori.” “Infact, we were about 90% into the production of the album when I was betrayed by my colleagues,” he says emotionally. “I had gone back to school to write my exams and we continued communicating. But after a while, they stopped picking my calls or replying my text messages. When I finished my exams, I went to Enugu to meet Big Nis, but he snubbed me and asked me to go back to wherever I was coming from. I was shocked.”

But there was nothing he could do about it. He went back to where he was coming form and in no time started hearing “Yori Yori” on radio. “I was heartbroken,” he says. “I bought the album and except for “No Time” which they did with P. Square and “Ada Owerri” with J. Martins, all the other songs on the album were mine. I was totally confused and didn’t know how to go about it, so I just went back to school to continue with my studies and also work on my music.” He is still a student of Electronic Engineering at the University.

Sometime later when Vast, who lived in Nsukka with his family, returned, he visited them but Vast dodged him. When he was finally able to corner him, Vast told him that it was never the intention of him and Smash to leave him out but that it was Mama that forced them to do so.

Bistop admitted to having had some problems with Mama. “I am a very outspoken person and as the leader of the group, whenever we were not comfortable with his decisions, I was always the one to speak to him about it,” he said. They had also accused him of embezzling their money at some point. All this he felt could have led to the decision to drop him. “I also sent some people to help me beg Mama to let me rejoin the group, but he refused. So I was left stranded.”

“But why did it take you this long to come out? I asked him”

“I took a while to dawn that there was a way I could come out and tell my story. I was finding things very hard. I had sold off my laptop and so many of my valuables in order to pay for my studio sessions while Smash and Vast had gone on to become stars with my sweat. I also wanted to have something to show to the world. I didn’t want to be just a bitter person who wanted to latch on to another people’s success. I wanted to be coming out on my own.”

“So what do you want done; what do you want Bracket to do for you?”

“I want full credit for my contributions to the album and to the group. Everything about the album came from me. Starting with the name, LEAST EXPECTED to even their own monikers. When I met Vast, he was bearing “Sheri Koko”, but I saw that the name would never fit into my ideas of a contemporary and progressive music group, so I suggested Vast. Smash was known as “Ali Okpa,” before I changed it for him.”

“Was any part of your deal with Nwachukwu Mamah and APE PLANET RECORDS documented?

“No, but we had a gentleman’s agreement that we would share any profit 40-60. 60% would go to him and APE PLANET RECORDS, while 40% would be for Bracket.”

That was Bistop’s story and since there are always more than one side to any story, NOTES AND TONES contacted the other parties involved to get their own sides of the story. Bracket acknowledged that Bistop was a member of their group but refused to go further than that. “It would be unwise for us to join issues with him in public,” Smash said. If he has any issues with us, let him contact us personally and not on the pages of newspapers and magazines.” Big Nis also refused to comment on Bistop’s story. But Dekumzy, the producer of the hit track “Yori Yori” was more forthcoming. He admitted that Bistop was deliberately removed from the scheme of things when they found out that his association with the group was drawing them back.

“Bistop was misusing most of the money of the group that came to him. He was doing a lot of bad things behind their back,” he said but refused to elaborate. “We simply had to cut him off from the songs so that the group could make progress,” he concluded.